LumberJocks

Bunk beds - tips, plans, suggestions?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Designing Woodworking Projects forum

Forum topic by JohnMcClure posted 03-27-2019 12:17 PM 504 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JohnMcClure's profile

JohnMcClure

704 posts in 1146 days


03-27-2019 12:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: bed bunk bed plans question bunk bed design

My next big honey-do is bunk beds. Not too fancy: twin-over-twin, no drawers, no slide; a pretty basic design (though the final design is not yet determined).
I typically make my own plans, but in this case I could really benefit from seeing some plans to get a feel for typical dimensions and structural needs.
If anyone has some general tips and suggestions along those lines, that will help too.
For example: I don’t want to make it look too “heavy” as would be the case with 4×4 and 2×6 construction lumber + carriage bolts. I’m thinking I’ll use an inexpensive hardwood and go 3×3 (or perhaps 2.5×2.5”) for the posts and 1×4 for most horizontal members, and most joinery either half-lap or M&T.
Another big decision would be disassemble-ability and un-stack-ability. We are probably moving in a year so I have to be able to take them apart. This will probably force me into carriage bolts somewhere (ugh).
When I was a kid our bunk beds un-stacked into two separate identical twin beds. They mated via 3/4” dowels which inserted into the top of one set of posts and the bottom of the other bed’s posts. I think with my “lightweight look” skinny posts that would compromise structural integrity but am open to suggestions, as it would be a useful feature.
Thanks all!

PS though it’s not officially decided by SWMBO, in the interests of keeping the project duration short I’m probably after a simple, clean style like this one:

Which I notice does un-stack.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail


13 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

10875 posts in 1644 days


#1 posted 03-27-2019 01:15 PM

I think the type of wood will play into the size requirements John. However, most all woods have good compression strength. It’s bending strength that will be your major concern here I think. The pieces that will be carrying the load are the long horizontal stretchers that hold the mattresses. That load is minimized by spreading the load across those members with slats.

Basically, I think you’re good to go using 2.5×2.5 verticals and 1×4 horizontals. But, if you need more piece of mind, once you select your wood type, let me know and I can run the actual numbers for ya.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Travis's profile

Travis

296 posts in 272 days


#2 posted 03-27-2019 03:36 PM

Bunkbeds might be in my future, so I’m also interested in this question. Nothing to contribute, just watching…. 8-)

-- The plan is wrong; my finished piece is right.

View sepeck's profile

sepeck

402 posts in 2647 days


#3 posted 03-27-2019 04:22 PM

If all you need is some good dimensions this should help out. Granted, this does not do ‘stackability’ but it should give you some ideas.

I built a loft bed ( https://www.lumberjocks.com/projects/101990 ) off of some plans from Anna White’s site ( http://www.ana-white.com/2010/05/furniture-plans-loft-bed.html ). It’s all just pine from the Home Depot. The site also has various straight bunk bed plans to look at as well.

If you go through the “made by” pictures you will see a few bunk bed variations. I didn’t want the classic 70’s look of 2×6’s myself so I liked the overall dimensions. As written, the plans are essentially a bare tools/skills do-it-yourself thing. It’s really made to be built and used in place. You can dissemble it and move it, etc, but I wouldn’t.

My daughter wants one now (more space in her room)
Things to correct on my next one.
The ladder. It needs to be wider at the base, descending in width as you go up so it will be more comfortable on the bare feet. I need to replace it. My daughter wants stairs at the foot of the bed so I was thinking of some tansu style stairs for her at the foot.
Connectors. It’s just wood screws, with some planning and some threaded inserts, this should be more durable long term to disassembly and moving. The direct into wood screws are problematic for the ladder long term as I’ve had to ‘fix it’ from one of the screws pulling out.
Wood. I will probably look at Poplar since she wants it painted so might as well.

-- -Steven Peck, http://www.blkmtn.org

View LittleShaver's profile

LittleShaver

582 posts in 1125 days


#4 posted 03-27-2019 05:56 PM

Many years ago my wife decided we needed a bunk bed. After several hours of visiting furniture stores, we stopped for lunch and sketched out a design. Next stop Lowes for some 2×4s and 2×6s and a box of 2.5’ lag bolts. By the end of the evening it was ready for finish. Couple of quick coats of shellac the next day and it was done. the third day it was in place and ready for use.

It has since been moved from MA to NV to CO where it is still in use.

This is kid furniture, not fine furniture.

-- Sawdust Maker

View JohnMcClure's profile

JohnMcClure

704 posts in 1146 days


#5 posted 03-27-2019 05:59 PM

Steven, thanks – I’ll have a look at that for dimensions.

Kenny, thanks – based on the price list at my local HW dealer, I can get S4S hard maple 1×4s for a decent price. I’m thinking hard maple would be among the strongest of typical domestic hardwoods? I may go cheaper by getting roughsawn, (and avoid the commercial look of 1×4) but with my cheap planer and jointer (and lack of extra time) I doubt I’d want to do that with hard maple. What do you think? Hard maple 1×4s as the long horizontal stretchers that support the slats? If I drop down to soft maple or birch, still strong enough?

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3012 posts in 3943 days


#6 posted 03-27-2019 06:40 PM

When I build beds and a couple of times bunk beds I start with the mattress size…. then build it around that dimension. Simplistic I know but it works for me.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View jonah's profile

jonah

2079 posts in 3804 days


#7 posted 03-27-2019 06:50 PM

I’d recommend a bunk bed with stairs, rather than a ladder. Even a very small, narrow set of stairs makes the top bunk way, way more accessible. That matters when it comes time to change the sheets or clean up there.

Plus, you can build drawers into the stair risers and get extra storage that way.

View DS's profile

DS

3291 posts in 2926 days


#8 posted 03-27-2019 06:57 PM

Show yer’ wife this one!

You’ll be in for it ‘fer sure.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View torus's profile (online now)

torus

329 posts in 919 days


#9 posted 03-27-2019 07:02 PM



...
Another big decision would be disassemble-ability and un-stack-ability. We are probably moving in a year so I have to be able to take them apart. This will probably force me into carriage bolts somewhere (ugh).
When I was a kid our bunk beds un-stacked into two separate identical twin beds. They mated via 3/4” dowels which inserted into the top of one set of posts and the bottom of the other bed s posts. I think with my “lightweight look”
...
- JohnMcClure

I would not trust 3×3 posts to hold together with 3/4 dowel (wooden or metal). Kids will be monkeying on the bed and the integrity of the posts is needed! I would make vertical post from whole board, put the head/foot-boards in between. And, when the time is right, I will cut the posts in half to make two twins from one bunk bed.

-- "It's getting better..." - put this on my RIP stone!

View GrantA's profile

GrantA

1812 posts in 1913 days


#10 posted 03-27-2019 09:39 PM

John I would suggest using barrel nuts and bolts like these, lowes carries them in a couple different finishes even and I’m sure there are tons of choices online

View sepeck's profile

sepeck

402 posts in 2647 days


#11 posted 03-27-2019 10:13 PM

Oh, don’t forget lumberjocks for design ideas as well
https://www.lumberjocks.com/projects/tag/bunk+bed and
https://www.lumberjocks.com/projects/tag/bunkbed

These two are outstanding and look to be along the lines of separating top and bottom.
- https://www.lumberjocks.com/projects/147146
- https://www.lumberjocks.com/projects/142370

And as noted by someone above. I did have the mattress dimension before I build. The mattresses are pretty standard but still, best to check it out first.

-- -Steven Peck, http://www.blkmtn.org

View Woodknack's profile

Woodknack

12903 posts in 2886 days


#12 posted 03-27-2019 11:23 PM

I have seen bunk beds built from construction lumber and they look clunky and are very heavy but it is a way to save money. If in the budget I would use 1” hardwood and good joinery with shoulders that will resist racking. The rails can have tenons held to the posts by bed bolts.

-- Rick M, http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View JohnMcClure's profile

JohnMcClure

704 posts in 1146 days


#13 posted 03-28-2019 03:13 AM

Thanks, everyone! Great tips.
I’ll pull the relevant dimensions (height of bottom mattress, headroom in bottom bunk, ladder step spacing) from some of the easy online plans. I’ll investigate the barrel bolts as well.
The projects Sepeck linked were inspirational, has me thinking I’ll use mostly maple with purpleheart accents.
Maybe start a blog on this once it gets going… usually don’t have time for that kind of stuff lately…

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com